Dish rotation directly driven from transport belt
An apparatus for conveying a plurality of articles includes a transport belt, a bumper stopper, and a rotator. A motor moves the transport belt which is adapted to rotate the rotator as the belt conveys the plurality of articles. The stopper can move between first and second positions relative to the transport belt wherein the bumper stopper guides one article toward the rotator when the bumper stopper is in the first position. The bumper stopper allows the article to be conveyed to another location when the bumper stopper is in the second position. The transport belt can continue to convey other articles while the one article is temporarily held in place by the bumper stopper. The rotator is configured to rotate the article conveyed by the transport belt. The article can remain in contact with the transport belt while the rotator is rotating the article.
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The present application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 15/547,978, filed on Aug. 1, 2017, allowed, which application is a national phase entry under 35 U.S.C. § 371 of International Application No. PCT/EP2016/052336 filed Feb. 4, 2016, published in English, which claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/112,980, filed Feb. 6, 2015, all of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a system to transport and identify an item under test such as a container used to evaluate a biological sample for the presence or absence of microorganisms (e.g. bacteria, fungi). Such containers are typically referred to as petri dishes or simply dishes. Such containers are also referred to as culture plates or simply plates.
Automated medical testing systems utilize a track to move the containers (“dish” hereinafter) for processing from one location to another. The dishes are inspected and identified at various locations as they are processed for testing and/or tracking. For example, the BD Kiestra® system offers multiple stations or modules or workbenches at which sample cultures in the dish undergo procedures and/or testing. Each dish must be identified before and/or after each such procedure or test to maintain accurate diagnostic records of the dish. Regular inspection of the dish ensures process integrity and ties all of the tests performed on the specific sample used to inoculate the culture media in the dish.
Previous methods of identifying a dish along the track utilize a barcode scanner and a scanning platform. The dish is stopped by mechanical means at a point along the track. A pneumatic cylinder raises the dish above a moving track and rotates the dish. A vacuum is provided to maintain the position of the dish on the cylinder. A barcode affixed to a side of the dish is scanned by the barcode scanner. The pneumatic cylinder then lowers the dish back onto the track to move the dish to another location.
The system for reading the barcode requires a multitude of moving parts to raise and rotate the dish. One motor is used to drive the transport belt and another motor to rotate the cylinder. The approach also increases the time needed to transport the dish from location to location because of the need to raise, scan, and lower the dish at each location where the dish is inspected.
Therefore, a need exists for an improved system of reading barcodes as dishes are transported from station to station in a multi-station processing system.BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
One aspect of the disclosure describes an apparatus for reading a barcode comprising a dish having a barcode, a transport belt, a bumper stopper having a first position at a first distance from the transport belt and a second position at a second distance from the transport belt, a rotator, and a barcode scanner. In some embodiments, the transport belt moves the dish in a first direction toward the bumper stopper, and the bumper stopper contacts the dish when the bumper stopper is in the second position. The bumper stopper can deflect the dish in a second direction toward the rotator, and the rotator can align the dish with the barcode scanner.
The apparatus may comprise an actuator to move the bumper stopper between the first position and the second position. In some embodiments, the actuator may be a pneumatic cylinder. The apparatus may further comprise at least one guide rail adjacent the transport belt.
The rotator can comprise a disc and a shaft extending from the disc. The rotator may further comprise a contact surface extending circumferentially around the disc. The apparatus may further comprise a motor to drive the transport belt and may also include a drive train to couple the motor to a pulley wheel adapted to drive the transport belt. In some embodiments, the dish moves toward the rotator when the bumper stopper is in the second position.
One aspect of the disclosure describes an apparatus for reading a machine readable label affixed to a dish. The apparatus has a transport belt adapted to carry the dish with one machine readable label from location to location. The apparatus is equipped with a bumper stopper, a rotator having a shaft, a first pulley wheel coupled to the shaft, and a scanner. The transport belt is configured to both carry the dish and rotate the first pulley wheel to position the dish label for reading. The scanner reads the machine readable label when the dish is properly oriented for the label to be read.
In some embodiments, the bumper stopper moves between a first position and a second position with a component of motion transverse to the motion of the transport belt. The dish can move along a path and the bumper stopper may be at least partially within that path when the bumper stopper is in the second position. The bumper stopper can guide the dish into contact with the rotator. The apparatus may also include a plurality of second pulley wheels to align the transport belt. In some embodiments, the transport belt simultaneously carries the dish and rotates the first pulley wheel. The transport belt may comprise two generally parallel tracks. The tracks provide a stable and balanced surface used to carry the dishes. The belt configuration is largely a matter of design choice. The skilled person is aware of many different suitable belt configurations. Guard rails may be positioned adjacent the transport belt along the length of the transport belt.
Another aspect of the disclosure describes an apparatus comprising a means for moving a container, a means for temporarily stopping the container, a means for rotating the container, and a means for reading a barcode affixed to the container. The means for transporting the container may comprise a transport belt. The means for temporarily stopping the container and the means for rotating the container may oppose one another across the means for moving the container.
A more complete appreciation of the subject matter of the present invention and the various advantages thereof can be realized by reference to the following detailed description, in which reference is made to the accompanying drawings:
A barcode scanning apparatus according to one embodiment of the invention includes a transport belt 6 as shown in
The apparatus is adapted to convey a dish 10 which has a machine readable identifier 32 affixed to it. In the embodiment shown in
A bumper stopper 14 is adjacent the transport belt 6. In the embodiment shown, the bumper stopper 14 is a pneumatic cylinder which extends through the upper deck 16. A bearing can be attached to the pneumatic cylinder to allow rotational motion about the cylinder axis. The pneumatic cylinder moves the bumper stopper 14 between a first position and a second position. In the first position, the proximal end of the bumper stopper 14 does not extend further from the upper deck 16 than the transport belt 6. In the second position, the bumper stopper 14 extends further above the upper deck 16 than the transport belt 6. The bumper stopper could also be configured to move from any direction in relation to the transport belt (e.g. from above, from the side).
A rotator 12 is adjacent the transport belt 6, preferably opposite the bumper stopper 14. In the embodiment shown, the rotator 12 is a disc with a shaft 20 extending from it (the shaft is best seen in
A scanner 34 is positioned in the vicinity of the transport belt 6 and rotator 12 (best seen in
One or more guide rails 30 extend along the path of the transport belt 6. As shown in
The transport belt 6 loops around the pulley wheel 8 and extends below the upper deck 16. As shown in
In some embodiments, the transport belt can be tensioned to maintain its position on the pulley wheels by first calculating the length of the path which the transport belt will travel. The length can then be multiplied by a reduction percentage (e.g. 6 to 10 percent, or more preferably, 8 percent). The transport belt can then be trimmed to that length and interweaved through the system described herein. The ends of the trimmed transport belt can then be attached to each other by welding, adhesive, or similar methods known to one of skill in the art.
The transport belt is moved by a motor such as a Maxon Amax 11W motor with an 84:1 gearbox. However, any suitable motor and gearbox are contemplated. The skilled person can select a motor suitable for use in the present invention. As shown in
As the motor 36 transfers motion to the pulley wheel 8 via the drive train, the pulley wheel causes the transport belt 6 to move. The motion of the transport belt 6 moves the dish 10 toward the bumper stopper 14. The dish 10 contacts the bumper stopper 14 when it is in the second (raised) position. The transport belt continues to move and the stopper 14 does not fully impair movement of the dish 10 but instead guides the dish 10 toward the rotator 12.
The dish 10 contacts the first surface 18 of the rotator 12 as a result of the guidance from the bumper stopper 14. The rotator 12 is continuously rotating while the transport belt 6 is in motion because the transport belt 6 rotates the pulley wheel 22 and shaft 20. The rotator 12 rotates the dish 10 to align the machine readable identifier 32 with the scanner 34. The bearing on the bumper stopper 14 may rotate about its axis as the dish 10 rotates.
The rotator 12 can be configured to rotate at the same speed as the transport belt. The rotator speed can be faster or slower than the speed of the transport belt. Hence the rotator speed is largely a matter of design choice. The rotator speed is influenced at least in part by the scanner sensitivity. A faster scanner can allow for faster rotation of the dish. The dish is rotated at least one complete rotation by the rotator to ensure that the machine readable label on the dish is read regardless of where it is placed on the dish relative to the label's initial placement relative to the scanner. In one embodiment, the rotation takes about one to two seconds.
Once the identifier 32 has been read by the scanner 34, the pneumatic cylinder can move the bumper stopper 14 into the first position, allowing the dish 10 to be conveyed away by the transport belt 6. The scanner can be connected to a computer or electronic controller (e.g. microprocessor, PLC controller) that moves the bumper stopper once the barcode is read. If the scanner fails to read the barcode the bumper stopper can be configured to allow the dish to pass after a few seconds and mark the dish as “unknown”. The guide rail 30 maintains the position of the dish 10 on the transport belt 6 as the dish continues to move with the belt.
The movement of the transport belt 6 is uninterrupted even when the dish 10 is temporarily held in place by the bumper stopper 14 and rotator 12. The continuous movement of the transport belt allows any other dishes on the belt to continue to be advanced in the apparatus while the machine readable identifier on a dish is being read, thereby confirming the identity of the dish under test.
In the embodiment shown in
Although the invention herein has been described with reference to particular embodiments, it is to be understood that these embodiments are merely illustrative of the principles and applications of the present invention. It is therefore to be understood that numerous modifications may be made to the illustrative embodiments and that other arrangements may be devised without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.
1. An apparatus for conveying a plurality of containers, each one of the plurality of containers carrying machine-readable code, the apparatus comprising:
- a transport belt that transports at least one container of a plurality of containers through the apparatus in a direction of travel;
- a bumper stopper moveable from a lower first position to a higher second position and, when in the higher second position, makes contacts with a container of the plurality of container and stops the container without stopping the transport belt carrying the container;
- a rotator comprising a disc and a shaft wherein the rotator causes the container to spin when the container is urged into contact with the rotator by the bumper stopper when the bumper stopper is in the higher second position;
- a first pulley wheel driven by a motor;
- a reader of machine-readable code wherein rotating the container causes the reader of machine-readable code to read the machine-readable code on the container;
- wherein the first pulley wheel causes the transport belt to move, thereby advancing the container toward the bumper stopper and wherein the bumper stopper, in a first position, allows the transport belt to transport the container over the bumper stopper such that the bumper stopper does not stop the container from being advanced past the bumper stopper by the transport belt; wherein the plurality of containers is a plurality of sample containers; and wherein the transport belt loops around the first pulley wheel.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein when the bumper stopper moves from the first position to the higher second position a component of such movement is transverse to the direction of travel of the transport belt.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the transport belt is configured to move a container of the plurality of containers along a path and the bumper stopper in the higher second position is at least partially in the path.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the bumper stopper in the higher second position guides a container of the plurality of containers into contact with the rotator.
5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the transport belt comprises at least two generally parallel members and wherein each member is driven by a pulley wheel.
6. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising guard rails positioned adjacent to the transport belt extending along a length of the transport belt.
7. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the rotator has a contact surface extending around the disc.
8. The apparatus of claim 7 wherein the contact surface is one of rubber or plastic.
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- Office Action issued in corresponding Brazilian Patent Application No. 11 2017 016913-4 dated Jul. 26, 2021, 20 pp.
- International Search Report from PCT Application No. PCT/EP2016/052336 dated Apr. 4, 2016.
- JP Notification of Reasons for Refusal issued in corresponding JP application No. 2017-559770 dated Sep. 27, 2018.
- Second Chinese Office Action received in 201680008310.5, dated Nov. 6, 2020, pp. 13.
Filed: Jan 28, 2020
Date of Patent: Mar 1, 2022
Patent Publication Number: 20200166532
Assignee: BD KIESTRA B.V. (Drachten)
Inventors: Jurjen Sinnema (Joure), Roger Petri (Assen), Martijn Xander Berntsen (Leeuwarden), Martijn Kleefstra (Surhuisterveen)
Primary Examiner: Kathryn Wright
Application Number: 16/774,501
International Classification: G01N 35/10 (20060101); C12M 1/00 (20060101); C12M 1/22 (20060101); G01N 35/02 (20060101); G01N 35/04 (20060101); G01N 35/00 (20060101);